The Job Search: What I Have Learned So Far

In February, I finished student teaching in Appleton, Wisconsin and I moved back home to the Chicagoland area. For the next two months, I worked on paperwork to become a substitute teacher, as well as on a (pretty darn awesome) teaching portfolio. Between February and now, I also aced the two education exams in Illinois and successfully substitute taught at my old high school without being too weirded out. However, do you know what I still don’t have in hand? A job! I have been actively searching for a job since April and, although I am still on the prowl, I certainly have learned a thing or two along the way. Hopefully my advice will have a bit more credence after I have sealed the deal on a job for the upcoming year.

1. Network! It does not take very long in the job application process before you realize that, as frustrating as it may be, the majority of jobs are secured as a result of connections. Use. Your. Connections. I cannot stress this enough. Make sure everyone you know is aware that you are seeking a job in a certain field. Anyone could be the person who gets your resume on top of the pile or to even get an interview. For example, just because your mom’s close friend is a pharmacist does not mean that her brother is not the assistant principal at a school where you applied. Don’t think you’re above using your connections to get an interview; everyone is doing it! If you feel like you’ve exhausted the connections you already have (or perhaps you’re new to the neighborhood and you don’t know anyone yet), I recommend getting involved in volunteering, a church group, an intramural sports team, or anything that will help you meet lots of new people.

2. Proofread your applications. Toward the beginning of the job search process, I read over a few applications I sent out and grimaced that I was missing a word in one of the sentences I’d written. D’oh! If your application initially stands out from the rest, but then whoever is reading the application notices a typo, then that’s an easy surefire way to get your resume tossed out. From what I’ve been told, there is often such a volume of applications that the hiring people need to find reasons to eliminate you from the process; a typo is an easy way to lose (especially for someone looking for an English teaching job, like me)!

3. Apply to as many jobs as you can find within a certain distance. So, let’s say you’re looking for jobs as a secretary and you live in Seattle. Decide how far you are willing to commute for a job, then search for and then apply to every secretary job you can find that is within that radius. Statistically speaking, the more applications you send out, the more of a chance you have in getting a job. The less picky you are in terms of job description and distance from home, the more likely it will be that you’ll get more interviews and/or offers.

4. Do not apply to a job that you would not accept. Now, I know it may be tempting to apply for lots and lots of jobs, some of which may not be exactly what you’re looking for. I know you want to have as many options as possible. However, you should also consider before applying if you would accept a position if offered one. What if that job is the only one that makes an offer? Would you take it? This is very important when considering; you don’t want to waste time applying to something that you could not really see yourself doing.

5. Ask relevant questions to the employer at the interview. Congratulations! You got an interview. Even though you may feel that this interview is all about the potential employer sending you through the wringer, you should take the opportunity to interview them, too. There are several different types of questions you can ask, including questions that show you did your research on the company,

6. Send a thank you letter immediately after the interview. This one doesn’t require much explanation. It’s a great to touch base with the person or people with whom you interviewed to thank them for taking the time out to interview you. You can also take this opportunity to remind them of the reasons why you would be an excellent match for the job.

7. Don’t miss that phone call! I am ashamed to say that during my job search process so far, I have missed a whopping three calls from potential employers. Once I was walking around the cacophonous city of Chicago, once I was in the bathroom, and once I was asleep. Regardless of the reason, you should do everything in your power not to miss those calls, even if it means bringing your phone to the bathroom with you. Answering the phone shows that you are interested and eager; it will also save the time for the person who is in charge of making those calls.

8. Don’t get discouraged. Depending on your approach to the job search process, this could be one of the most difficult points on the list. About two months into the job search process when I had not gotten a single response from an employer (not even an email to say that a different candidate had been selected), I had a brief period of time when I felt helpless. My self-efficacy was at an all-time low and I couldn’t bring myself to put another three-hour stint into an application. But, you know what? I slapped myself (figuratively), got out of my funk, and continued to apply. Just keep trying. Never give up. You never know when that follow-up email or phone call could actually produce an interview!

Good luck, job seekers!

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6 thoughts on “The Job Search: What I Have Learned So Far

  1. My brother worked the network and it still took almost three years to get his first teaching job. I was lucky enough to get mine straight out of school.

    Keep the faith and take every opportunity to get more experience. Sounds like you already have some good ideas about making it happen.

    1. Yikes. Out of curiosity, did your brother substitute teach during that time? Was he looking for work in/around a city or a rural location? I wonder if I’ll have different tips for myself by the end of this job search process! I met people at job fairs who had been looking for teaching jobs for as many as seven years. 0_0

      Congrats on getting yours straight out of school! How long have you been teaching now?

      1. My brother did substitute teach and tutor for a few school districts in a rural part of Southern Maine. That was part of it; part of it was his subject (history and social studies) and the economy. He writes some about his experiences on the blog.

        I have actually been teaching on an off since 1999 (I taught in a high school). I now teach at a university and am entering my seventh year. It has been extremely rewarding.

        Good luck. The most important thing my brother did was build relationships with the administrators of the schools he substituted in.

      2. Thanks so much for the response! I’m glad that both you and your brother have found teaching jobs you enjoy. I followed your blog. 🙂

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